Thursday, March 29, 2012

On Radon Remediation

Photo of this terrific book from:

This is a fan based radon mitigation system.  (  Photo:    )

As you have been following our family's journey after the August earthquake, you may remember that we now have a higher radon level in our finished basement, than is desirable. This next week, work begins to remediate the radon issues. Once again, elevated radon levels in a basement or home for a few weeks or even months may not be much of an issue, but sustained levels above 4 picacuries per liter can significantly contribute to lung cancer risk over time. So, without losing our minds, learning to measure correctly, and learning about remediation is in order. Whether you decide to take actions which remediate your own radon, or whether you hire a contractor to aid you, it is absolutely essential that you obtain and read this excellent book. This book alone may help you to do your own remediation. If it doesn't, and you hire someone, your knowledge base, after reading it, will make you much more resistant to being conned by a less than scrupulous contractor. It will also help you to makes the best decisions about radon abatement, and yes, you do have choices !

The book that I think is the absolutely most valuable, easy to understand and well written is: "Protecting Your Home from Radon" Second Edition By D.L. Kladder, Dr. J.F. Burkhart, S.R. Jelinek,   Publisher: Colorado Vintage Companies The book can be purchased at a discount for about $36.00 through Amazon, or by going to this link:

 Our other posts concerning radon are:

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Another 3.1 Earthquake

                 We were all tucked in with everyone asleep, when once again, some pretty substantial shaking occurred at our home.   Everyone got up and came in to see how bad we thought this one was.   We all decided it had to be at least a 3.   It wasn't long until the USGS noted it as a 3.1 with an epicenter in an adjacent county.   Interestingly, our radon levels from our continuous radon sampling unit have been higher than we believed they would be.  It's too early to state that from this location, there is an elevation of radon levels prior to a quake or aftershock.  We need more data.
                 Now, to relax and get back to sleep   With all the wineries and the earthquakes, Central Virginia is beginning to feel like California !    I have a busy day tomorrow, and don't much want to spend more time looking for damage.

NOT Nurturing Paranoia


                Most of the people within the "Preparedness Movement" both within the United States and internationally, are reasonable intelligent people.  They seek simply to plan ahead sufficiently to allow their families to survive a natural event, or a man-made event that would have challenged their survival, and their family's comfort, had they not prepared.  This is as simple as it is.   Of course, what is reasonable in terms of preparation in Texas, would be considered over-the-top in Stockholm, simply because the threat level and hazards differ considerably.  We need to accept this and avoid a number of things.   First of all, we need to refrain from judging the preparations of others whenever we can.  Stocking the amount of water my Colorado friends do, would be irrational, here where I just received five inches of rain, and collected quite a bit.   My stocking a 50 cal weapon as my rural Texas border friends do, would be irrational here.  Comparing is only useful as it helps us to consider whether we have met our own local challenges optimally.
                Our most important tasks in the preparedness community is to prepare for emergencies for ourselves and for our families.  Our second task should be to share our thinking on how we prepare, not in a judgemental or bossy way, but in an informative way.  We need to understand how very different our lives and our regions are, US state to US state.   Certainly, there are even more striking difference in risk and risk management with regard to preparedness, nation to nation.   It's one important task


                I suppose if one reads a large amount concerning preparedness and survivalism, it becomes easier to be fearful.  However, we are sent to Earth to do the best that we can with the information and the materials we are given.  We need to take care of the tasks at hand, even when they may be overwhelming, and then we need to find a way to let them go.  I have a saying I heard many years ago, which I try to make a part of my life.  "I do the best I can each day, and then I sleep well, because God is going to be up all night anyway.".   The truth is, that once we do our best, there is very little in life which truly warrants losing much sleep.  So, learn what you can.  Take care of your family.  Live and love.  It takes just as much time and effort to be kind and decent to people than it does to give them a hard time, so bring light whenever you can.   Hold people accountable when you must.   Try to live a life in balance, and try to see preparedness as a balanced approach to life.
                If you linger in preparedness and survivalism long enough, you will encounter some paranoid people.  Some of these people are paranoid because they had difficult early lives. They know how difficult life can be, and they expect adulthood and the future to be as difficult or worse.  Others are a shade paranoid because their lives as soldiers, spies or police officers etc. led them to being hypervigilant as a requirement of their jobs.  This can be very hard to shake even afterward.   Some people are paranoid with regard to preparedness and survivalism because they have been bombarded by media and have arrived at a place where they don't believe that the authorities or politicians are doing their jobs any longer.  There are a few positive things to paranoia.   One is that the paranoid are rarely murdered or abducted.  They notice much, and they tend to protect their children well.  However, they clearly do not enjoy their lives.  So, if you have come to survivalism or preparedness with an insatiable desire to learn all you can, then so be it.  But, remember, to live a life in balance, and remember to enjoy the journey also.  Strive for watchfulness without hypervigilance, oraganization without obsessive compulsion, concern without obsession, preparedness without exhaustion.  Be reasonably skeptical, but trust when appropriate.  Yes, I know that this is a tall order, but I know that you are bright and balanced people overall.

The "Emergency Fair"

One community's Emergency Fair. This is the fire department stall.
This stall shows their line of available emergency freeze dried food.
      When we originally moved to this region, there was not a lot to do socially unless you were very wealthy.  We enjoyed the role of being the "poster family for the middle class" here, and couldn't have done many of the social events.   Polo and fox hunting,  are too expensive and neither interest me.  Fundraisers for politicians aren't my cup of tea either, although I did take my youngest son to a couple of them, for educational purposes. As time went on, I did find charitable works which not only interested me, but helped me find purpose beyond my own family, and my own likes and dislikes.

               I suppose I am happy to announce that even in our isolated rural berg, things have changed.  The new social events here are things like an "Emergency Fair" and also a "Seed Swap".    The "Emergency Fair" is a gathering in which local groups provide information about broad aspects of preparedness to families.  Some of the attendees who bought tables there in flea market fashion, are local fire departments,  local governments and health departments armed with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, rounded out by home inspection contractors, people who sell patrol dogs, and people whose companies help you grow what you can to eat, from whatever acreage you have.  Almost every local company and organization found a way in which they could help local families, both wealthy, poor, and middle class, better prepare for a wide range of emergencies, and for general health promotion of education.   In a separate room, there was citizen CPR certification, including AED training.  The local rescue squads and CERT were also recruiting. There were door prizes, and literature for making your own 72 hour bags, and "sheltering in place" versus evacuation, etc. Some of the churches which teach safe canning were there, to let people know when their classes are.  The local foodbank was there also, to let people know they need more donations, and also to let people know,  where they are, and that they are willing to help.  If your region has not yet considered doing one of these, perhaps you and friends could organize one in tandem with your county.  This was also a lot of fun.
             A "Seed Swap" is a similar undertaking.    People set up flea market style tables for a small fee, and then individuals and families come to trade their seeds for others.   Roots and plant samples are ok also if this is the way a plant is propagated.  This endeavor takes something people do anyway, trade their extra daylillies they have, split for small red tip bushes, etc. and heirloom tomato seeds for other heirloom variety seeds which can be grown as foods.  The local extension agent can also come to answer questions on best practices.
            The recession has done a few good things for families.  One of them is to foster education, a sense of community,  and some opportunities in some of the activities which have evolved since 2008.

This is one community's procedure for "Seed Swap".  Our small region was much less formal.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Radon Revisited


A continuous radon detector at work. These are not much larger than a carbon monoxide detector.
     I knew, and had reported to you earlier that following even following a small earthquake, that the radon levels within your home and your basement could change.  I urged you to retest your home for radon should you experience an earthquake there, or near there.   This may help clarify for you, exactly why you should.  As you know, we have a high ceilinged, well built basement which has a large amount of finished living space, as well as mechanical rooms and a workshop.  After it was built, and again, after it was finished as living space, and got some extra bedrooms, it was tested for radon.  As long as reasonable ventilation was occurring, then it was below the American standard of 4 picacuries per liter  (Canada measures using a different standard)     Now that we have had the 5.8 Central Virginia earthquake, and more than 100 aftershocks since, it is fair and reasonable to recheck these levels.   Theoretically, fractures in rock below can allow enhanced leakage of radon daughters from rocks with uranium.  This radon can become trapped particularly in well built homes, built with strong "R" values for energy-efficiency.  I waited a bit longer than I wanted to, to take these measurements because aftershocks of 2.2 and 3 were continuing, and if minor damage was continuing, it made more sense to get readings when the activities which altered the readings were complete.   This week, when the continuous radon detector I spoke of in a prior post arrived, I reread the directions and began to get readings.   I deliberately closed up things and cut ventilation in an attempt to discern what are likely our worst case scenario readings here.

      These are just a few of the basement readings which are still under way.

     Basement bedroom 4        10.2
     Disaster supply room         8.7
     Basement bedroom 5         8.5
     Library                              8.4
     Basement bedroom 6         8.3
     Bathroom                          7.6

    As you can see, these are about twice the readings they should be, and are substantially higher than they
   were, when we built and tested the house almost four years ago.  For us, the earthquake has made a substantial difference in the amount of radon leakage from soil into our home.  My husband, an engineer, is completing his gathering of information on radon abatement.  It is his plan to begin two abatement strategies starting next week.

          Radon is a colorless and odorless gas, which is unlikely to do anything in the short term.  However, breathing it for years, will raise your lung cancer risk, and if you are a smoker raises it substantially.   Everyone should measure their basement and each room for radon, if you have a continuous device. If you do not own the continuous device, then cannister variety testers are available for radon testing, at most hardware stores.  Steps should be taken to abate radon, if it is found to be higher than 4 picacuries per liter.

            I will share with you what I learn about these abatement strategies that we will employ, as I learn about them.  I will also post the normalized figures as we attain them.   Keep in mind, that elevated radon levels can also be a sign of impending earthquake activity, and so this also, may be what we are seeing.
            The important thing is to get homes tested, and then to research abatement, which can be easier than I had first believed.  There are some inexpensive, yet effective alternatives for homeowners.  In the early 1980s, much less was known about the science and the art of radon abatement in homes, and a lot of contractors did things which amounted to overkill.  Now, much more efficient and inexpensive strategies can be employed, which are a great deal less expensive.

"Rational Preparedness" prior posts on radon include:

They also include information for radon in Canada

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Word About Construction

Hardened Structures operates in all 50 states. I believe they have the ability to build worldwide. Note the hidden reinforced areas underneath the home for both living and storage.  is a full service company who builds everything from commercial structures, to miltary structures, to fortified homes and special projects.  Their architects and engineers do everything from risk assessment to design and implementation of everything from your very prepared home, to entire "bug out communities" with bunkers.  They also provide EMP mitigation, should you be interested.  Definitely, take a look at their website:

They also provide emergency bunkers including installation, for tornadoes, and other man-made or natural disasters.  Some of the smaller structures are quite reasonable for the amount of engineering and expertise one receives.  Please take a look when you have some time. Their website is very complete and quite interesting.

This is a wonderful interactive tour for those of us who would likely drool at these features:

      Most of us cannot entertain building a "hardened facility" of some kind as a residence.  Over the years, my husband and I have owned many homes, and actually had two built for us, and the closest we were able to get was to build a hardened basement under our home.  We did this because there are enough tornadoes, and we suspected there could be earthquakes, and we wanted there to be a reliable and solid place not only for our family to go in an emergency with little notice, but also a reliable place in which to store emergency supplies.  Most of us must structure some type of a compromise.

        Our own compromise entailed building with "superior walls"

These walls comprise a variety of products which are constructed as concrete walls off site, under ideal conditions for hardening, and they are made to your builders exact specifications.  Then, they are trucked to the site, and fastened together permanently.  The result is a line of different products which are incredibly resistant to earthquake and to tornado.

This is a cabin being built over superior walls. Note how the doors and window openings are all custom. (Photo belongs to: Hidden Lake Lodge of Kentucky)    Superior Walls can be left with a stucco exterior, or faced entirely in brick, as we did.

This is how the pieces arrive and are assembled by the company itself using a crane.  Ours was set within an area cut in the soil so that only the back was windowed and accessible from the outside.

We chose superior walls not just because it was energy efficient, and very strong, but because we could get a very tall ceiling basement, like another home entirely, beneath our home.  The entire basement project did not cost very much more than a tall basement with additional courses of concrete block would have.

This is what it looks like when installed, before it is finished.  Since this is completely custom, holes for electrical wiring and other modifications are made in advance of factory construction.  These areas are very energy efficient.
Ultimately, our basement was finished and looks identical to any other construction inside.

Our own floor was reinforced concrete also.

              Of course, building structures is a lot like living a life.  We must chose the things on which we must compromise, and in turn, make the best choices for our family.  My goal is to educate everyone in terms of knowing more about some of the construction materials which are now available.   Selecting carefully can allow you to construct your project well under the budget you believe will be required.   This is an excellent time to build anything from a home to a cabin.   There are many construction specials, land specials, and builders are ready to make deals to keep their crews working.   If you do decide to build something, then take lots and lots of before, during and after pictures.  Whether you choose to share them or not, it's good to have documentation of your structures should repairs or modifications be necessary.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


This is the modern box of Wheatena


             When I was a little girl, when all the other rural and suburban little girls were eating "Lucky Charms", and "Cap'n Crunch", "Quisp" and "Quake". my father and mother were buying Wheatena.    Wheatena is a whole grain cereal which actually tastes rather nutty and good.  It is generally served hot, and my Dad added a bit of brown sugar.     Once in a great while my mother would make Wheatena muffins.  To make the cereal, you bought the orange box, boiled some water on the stove, and added a pinch of salt and dropped a measured amount of the cereal in.  In a few minutes the cereal cooked and expanded and had a wonderful smell.
             In the past year as I have been considering things to place in the pantry, I have been looking for Wheatena.   Many stores no longer carry it.  I did find it in the Harris Teeter chain, and it was fairly reasonable.   The new box, still orange, is above.     I also did some research in the course of looking for it.
Wheatena originated in New York City in 1879.  George Hoyt,  ground this wheat cereal and sold it in sanitary boxes rather than in bulk, and it caught on.  He sold the cereal franchise to a physician who was interested in nutrition, named Dr. Frank Fuller, who in turn, sold it to A.R. Wendell who then incorporated "The Wheatena Company".  In the 1960s, the Uhlmann Company bought it, and in 2000 it was eventually sold to Con Agra Foods.   Then on Halloween of 2001,  William Stadtlander and his company bought it and marketed not only Wheatena, but Maypo and Maltex also.
            I know that Wheatena is now available within the United Kingdom, and I know that US buyers are able to buy it on .    I have not noticed it in Canada, but I'll bet it can be found there also.
            Today, I thought of this because I do pay attention to the key search words that people use which bring them to our blog, and someone was looking for Wheatena.
             If you have a chance to try this, please do.  It's a healthy cereal with plenty of roughage, and it really prevents hunger until lunch, as it's slowly processed by our systems.  When prepared with water (some prepare it with milk), it is only 165 calories per serving, and is quite filling.


  In addition, a box kept in a cool dry place lasts a long time, and therefore is a good buy for those of us who seek being prepared.  I keep some enclosed in a freezer bag in a freezer also.  It is a nice change from oatmeal or cream of wheat for those of you who enjoy a hot cereal from time to time.  One can also add things to it, like nuts, raisins or pieces of fruit.   My father occasionally added dried dates and blackstrap molasses or honey to his bowl.

This is the manufacturer's home page:

They also have a STORE LOCATOR feature.

If there is no store within your zip code or fairly nearby, they can direct you to a supplier who can
sell Wheatena to you via mailorder.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Magnitude 7.4 Quake in Southwestern Mexico

The location of todays earthquake (photo: The Associated Press)

            Today a 7.4 earthquake occurred east of Acapulco, Mexico.    Thus far, damage reports are claiming that at least one government building in Mexico City is damaged. Officials in Guerrero say that 800 homes near the epicenter have been damaged.   We do not have the full information or the full story yet.  There are some reports of fractures and injuries to human beings.   There have also been several strong aftershocks, one at 5.3.  Most of the effects are being felt in Southwestern Mexico and near the Pacific Coast.   Miraculously, there have been no reports of deaths.
              We are continuing to see quakes all over the world.  The "Ring of Fire", The San Madrid fault, and many others are showing signs of intermittent seismic activity.   It is simply wise, wherever you are to structure an emergency plan, an evacuation plan, and be prepared to shelter in place, or evacuate, wherever you live.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Family Disaster Planning and Communication

       Our communication needs as families are going to be considerably different.   When our children were small and in school, during a disaster, it would have been necessary for me, the parent who worked nearby, to retrieve the kids, and our plan was to return to our home, gather our pets and then to evacuate if necessary to a pre-selected location my husband and I had discussed in advance.   When we moved out to the "back of beyond" and we began homeschooling,  and I worked part time, often when my husband was home or working from there, our communication needs were different.  If there had been a disaster or emergency, our children were already home. (Except on days when they were taking a specialized course, like skating, physical education,  art, or lab chemistry etc.)  I would have returned to our farm as a base as soon as possible, and the same is true of my husband, had he been the one at work rather than myself.   In our emergency planning and communication plans, we did not rely on cellular phones, we had a pre-set plan, should phones be out.  In addition, when our children were small only one cellphone was owned by our family and it normally stayed with my husband.

These are great tools which may not work in a true emergency, or they may work for only the period of time in which the battery back-up at the cell tower does.

                  I urge all of you now to consider all of the family members who reside with you.  How would you contact one another, and meet again should there be a disaster which necessitates leaving your area, or a disaster where your home could not serve as your base until everyone returns later that day, and you all leave the area together.  I urge you also to assign an out of area call person.   Sometimes when there is a disaster in a region, cell or landline calls cannot easily be routed through that area, and so, it would be more reliable to leave messages at a contact person, out of state, or out of province.  Then your  other family members could also call them for reliable information, when they could not reach you.   Make sure this out of area contact person knows who they are.  Once you have communication plans for those who live with you, you can consider other issues.
                  If you have children in universities, either nearby, or a distance away, establish with them how you would contact them in emergencies, and how they could best contact you.  This will be different for each student and each university, but it's essential that this be discussed and that a plan be formulated.  Many times, when students are missing, the parents don't know for a time, because they established no alternative clear way to contact the student, should they not hear from them.  Sometimes, this has resulted in a late start for a police investigation.
                   Lastly, establish a plan as to how you could contact elderly parents, or disabled family in the event of a disaster.  It could be as simple as calling a landline to their next door neighbor, or calling their minister who lives nearby, or contacting a friend of theirs via HAM radio.
                   Certainly, our plans for contacting those we love are very likely not to work in at least some of the circumstances that may arise.  However, in many events, they will.  It is essential that all families have an emergency contact plan and a default evacuation plan which was discussed in advance.  We must know what we would do if we could not occupy our homes, had to leave the area, and could not communicate conventionally.

                    We know from Hurricane Katrina that if you are ever separated from your children and have time to anticipate this, that the children who were most quickly returned to their parents were the ones who were marked.  "Permanent" black magic marker with their names, the parents names, address, and phone, written on the child's back under a shirt was a very good idea.  Many children following Katrina were not returned to parents for months.  The children were so traumatized that they could not remember the names of their parents, or the name of the street or town in which they lived.
                     Lastly, my father worked hard during his lifetime to teach me two things, and I am afraid I resisted both pretty effectively until after his passing.  He valued my learning to handle and shoot firearms well and safely, and he believed that I should have a HAM radio set up and a license for such.  I have rectified the first issue, and although I have the radio, I have not yet obtained the license, although I shall.
                     I hope this gives each of you a starting point in terms of assessing which areas of communication your family needs to structure or refine.

Make sure that everyone understands what they are to do in the event of an emergency, and update this communication annually.

On Extended Family

(photo  Can you really take on distant relatives who arrive as above ?



    One of the largest concerns for many people in the preparedness community is extended family.  Most people have parents who may be elderly who may, or may not have some type of food or general reserves. Sometimes families are worried about their aging parents who may not live nearby or may not be accessible to them should an emergency of some kind occur. This can be a problem in ideal times, and it can be a mammoth problem during a disaster.  Of course, it's a stressor to anyone who loves someone who does not reside with them.    Many of us have young adult or college student children, who also might not be nearby during a terrorist attack, a tornado, a major earthquake, etc.  Families also worry about their children in school.  During some recent US disasters, parents were not allowed to pick up their children in school and leave with them. Another question might be, in the situation of a grown son or daughter or a parent or in-laws, whether you can or should stock enough supplies to feed them throughout a protracted emergency.
               The first task to beginning to formulate a plan for better management of this unknown is to, over a couple of days, have the adults in your family list their concerns. (I am thinking a husband and wife, but whomever the primary responsible adults in your family are, would be fine.)    Each of you should list your specific concerns about extended family members in a variety of possible situations.  Keep these broad.
Things like:

    1. If mother had to evacuate in the long term, could she come here ?  Is this viable ?
    2. If Bobby and his wife had nowhere to go, can we accomodate them, and can we feed them ?
    3. Aunt Liz and her cat probably couldn't come here because we are cat allergic. What could we offer to her in an emergency ?

       Once our fears are on the table, the presumed two adults who head your household, should have a private discussion.   The concerns should be discussed.  What family members can you offer temporary safe harbor to, and which ones are simply shortcuts to the destruction of your family ?    I have a friend who has a sister who makes consistent bad decisions and who is involved peripherally with drugs. She and her husband cannot offer safe harbor to her sister under any circumstances without endangering their own family and children.  These hot button, concerning, and very unpleasant discussions must take place between your "chief" family members before such things occur.  In our family, our children are almost all young adults now, and so we had a secondary family discussion which asked their concerns, in the event that we had forgotten an issue or a concern.
         In our own family this was a simple discussion.  Both my parents have passed, and so have my in-laws.  Most of our aunts and great aunts have passed also.  Some of our children are in the tail end of what I deem "the launch sequence", and are readying to buy homes.  However, they know that in an emergency, we would all meet here on the farm, and that all of us would work together to stay safe and feed our group.  Remember that as your children grow, there will be spouses and perhaps children, and that they will also need to be provided sanctuary in an emergency.    We therefore have a simpler set of advance decision-making than many people.
          You and your spouse must make some decisions about which family members would be joining you during an emergency, and for how long.  How would you feed them ?  How would you provide for any medical needs ?  Who could become a part of your group, and who absolutely could not ?    Your sister Sue might be welcome, but her alcoholic husband who self medicates for other psychiatric disorders might not be welcome or trustworthy at your place.  How can you help your sister,. but not breach your home and endanger your own children ?    These are tough decisions to be made, and they may be sorrowful.
         In a serious emergency, there will be family who turns up with nowhere else to go.  You will either need to put them up, perhaps on the living room floor, or turn them away that day.   These decisions need to be made in advance. You and your family need to decide whom if anyone, you are prepared to help in your family.  It may be that you are not financially able to help anyone from a standpoint of food, sanitation or simple space.  If this is true, then you and your spouse need to have decided this in advance.  If you do decide to offer safe harbor to a family member, be sure that you indicate to them the time span.   I know someone who offered a temporary space to her sister and her sisters daughter and small children "until they got on their feet".  Our friend anticipated 3-6 months.  Her sister, and children, and now another baby are now still in her home, three years later.
         These are tough decisions.   No one wants our distant cousins children to go to foster care during an emergency.  No one wants to leave a loved on high and dry during a real emergency. We also need to respect ourselves, as Christians, Muslims, Jews or just human beings.   We don't want to carry around a perception that we abandoned a relative.   However, we cannot stock food for every distant relative, nor sometimes every close one.  We can't stock potassium iodate for everyone we know.  Most of us have limited sanitation and living space for our own family. We can't open up our homes as a long term hotel.   We must carefully define our capabilities as a family, and then communicate them within our family.
          In our family, there are few remaining relatives beyond our kids, and they are geographically distant.  Our children would join us in an emergency, and everyone would have assigned tasks.  This would benefit us, as much as it would our children.   Make sure that you and your spouse discuss what you can do, and work toward this.  Best wishes with some difficult soul searching and decision making.



Friday, March 16, 2012

A Trip to a Village Hardware Shop

These are the SAE tools, I bought the metric variety as my car needs metric tools.

This week has been a challenging one. However, even in challenging weeks we can often make progress in one area or another of our preparations. Sometimes, we have enough cash to gather some things we need. Sometimes, we find items we need discounted or on a substantial sale. Sometimes, we can't spend money, but we find excellent preparation information that week, or we can allocate the time toward organization of supplies, or even organizing paperwork you might need for an evacuation.
This week we were making the long trip back from the hospital when we needed to stop in a village where I sometimes buy tires. Driving as much as we do, and with such a climate, we go through tires faster than most people. As a consequence of getting new tires, we noted a small hardware store which was reconfiguring to sell more of the items they do sell, and selling off items which are no longer selling strongly.

We were able to stock up on the following:

Really excellent Master Mechanic tools Metric Combo wrenches with chrome-vanadium finishes.
sizes, 7 mm, 9mm, 10mm, 11mm, 12mm

Assortment of rubber hose washers, and hose filter washers. Items for hose repair

Metal shelf supports

Variety of multi-use spreader scrapers

Variety of stainless and other metals animal hardware, for horses and dogs

Variety of welding hardware and accessories.

We were able to get some things that conventional hardware chains no longer carry, and we were able to get some things at discounted prices.

Some of the tools I bought today are also available here:

Gathering things to move toward self sufficiency is a process. It can take a long time, and we can only take over doing so many things for ourselves at a time. After today, we are just one more inch closer to doing more and more of our own car work in terms of maintenance and repairs.

Normally our dogs are in their kennel, or running free on assignment on the farm. However, an evacuation would require that they be gathered on leashes, relocated, and for a short time be secured to metal stakes using a long rope, until we made safer more comfortable arrangements for them.   The items above are dog sledding hardware, but we would use many of these items in a dog relocation, as in the event of a forest fire, even a few miles from here, where the smoke alone could be hazardous to them.

These are some welding supplies.

          Certainly, we can't buy everything everywhere, and we cannot all be prepared to do everything that might emerge as a need in the future, but the more organized supplies we do have, the fewer times we will have to pay to have someone else repair or replace something on our properties.

UPDATE:    February 13, 2014          We have had a challenging Winter with a fair amount of snow and freezing rain.  It's been a big help to have the items we bought on this trip available and in use, in order to avoid last minute or even dangerous trips in advance of major storms.  It's a good strategy to prepare in advance of times when you might not have the time or the ability to get supplies you will need later.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Source for Some Interesting and Unusual Items

This is the Zodi Extreme shower system, which we have discussed before on this blog.  This is one of the items sold by this company.  Please see the myriad of replacement parts.

       As you know, although I has a few sponsors for my radio program, the blog venture is entirely mine, and I have no sponsors who pay me anything to talk about their products. Anything I discuss I am looking at with likely as critical an eye as you.


          Recently, a company commented positively to one of my posts here, and I thought, because they have some interesting products for our purposes, that I should bring them to your attention.

   The company is:   Online Survival Supplies

                         Phone:  (208) 263-6027

                                                     (This is the Bonner Co., Sandpoint, Nebraska area)

   They have a supply of Augason Farms freeze dried canned food,  and a line of Wise foods as well.  They stock grab and go styled packaging, ideal for camping, and also plastic cased long term food storage items as well.   They sell a variety of military styled medical kits,  and a pretty wonderful set of dental emergency supplies.  I like the deluxe emergency dental kit for $30. especially.    They have a variety of gun and home safes, and a variety of floor safes.  They have a variety of feminine hygiene organic supplies and they even sell a menstrual cup for women with latex sensitivities.   They sell the Zodi Extreme Shower we have discussed before, but they also sell replacement component parts for it.   Most survival supply houses do not sell blast doors and hatches, but this company does.  Of course, some of these materials are not inexpensive, but this provides us with one more supplier and another set of excellent ideas.

          It is unusual for a company to sell items for geodesic shelter construction, so this would be an excellent time to check out their website.
One of the things this company sells is the gluten free Lecithin granules for only $4.89 US for a 14.2 oz. can.  Check out their large can of Iodized salt for about five dollars.

        They also sell everything from solar cookers to rocket stoves, lights, solar panels and universal inverters, LED lighting system, and a wheat grinder.  This is definitely a place to continue your education.

       I would normally include more pictures, but their internet catalog is set not to permit my importing their photographs to blog, so the pictures of these available products have come from other sources.   I have not yet purchased from this company myself, but again, competition and variety is good, and this enhances our education as well.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

What Do You Mean, "There is a Tritium Leak ?????"

We live in the literal "back of beyond."  Now, we are not only troubled by continuing aftershocks from a 5.8 earthquake last August, but the plant that supplies 450,000 rural households with electricity is leaking odorless, colorless, but not harmless, tritium.

    When Central Virginia had a 5.8 earthquake in August, 2011, the anti-nuclear power advocates said that The North Anna Nuclear Power Station, a shade more than ten miles as-the-crow-flies, from the epicenter, would leak radioactive materials.  This concern melted rather quickly for most people, as they addressed the more immediate issues of many of the schools being too damaged to hold classes.  Louisa County had to rotate elementary, middle and high school classes in the same buildings, and attend high school at night, and on Saturdays. Businesses closed, and some families moved away before FEMA ever arrived to set up shop.  More than 100 aftershocks have probably not helped the state of mind of people there, or the buildings, homes, or nuclear facility structural integrity,  or for that matter, the structural integrity of the buildings  in surrounding counties.
              This week, I learned from The Hook, a Charlottesville, Virginia newspaper, that radioactive tritium has been detected   Despite the fact that North Anna was never constructed to take such a seismic hit, Dominion Virginia Power, its owner, was given permission to restart the reactors just a couple of months after the 5.8 quake.   Now, 53,000 picacuries per liter of tritium has been detected in water near the plant. This is double the federal safety level.  In NJ, when tritium leakage has occurred before, free bottled water was distributed to families within a ten mile radius of their plant, and potassium iodide tablets were distributed to people living at that distance as well.

    Here's more information:

      So, if you are thinking about coming to Central Virginia, we have lovely farms, but continuing aftershocks and more seismic activity are likely.   We have a beautiful nuclear facility leaking a little bit of tritium, and we are told no real way to check the welded pipes under the facility for leakage.   Bring your potassium iodate and your bug out bag.   And Canada still won't let me live in my home there more than six months annually. I hope those months spent here are the six months annually where the tritium levels are low.

North Anna Nuclear Power Station    (Photo: Dominion Virginia Power, it's owner)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

On Food Poisoning

Chicken and potato salad  (Photo:

    Food poisoning is an amazingly common event.  For many of us, we get little enough of the offending agent, so that all we notice may be transient nausea or mild diarrhea.  However,  the other end of the spectrum may be quite severe.
                 Food poisoning may be caused by a variety of agents.  For anyone who has been to a chicken dinner at a church in the Southern US, which also served potato salad, chances are, you know something about salmonella.   Salmonella is a variety of closely related organisms, which may cause severe diarrhea, may cause vomiting, and may cause blood in stool. Sometimes, it will cause a frequent fluidy yellow stool.  A high temperature may occur, and the patient if young, old, or afflicted with another chronic illness, could die without intravenous rehydration.  Most of us fall in the middle of the spectrum with salmonella. We are sicker than the mild case I first described, yet not quite so ill as to absolutely require intravenous rehydration.  The sickness may persist from about 1-10 days, and most cases are self limiting. Our bodies simply flush out the salmonella over time, and we keep hydrating, first with clear liquids (that you can see through), then with full liquids, and when those are tolerated, on to bananas, rice, pudding, toast, etc.  Most family doctors are reluctant to prescribe antibiotics for salmonellosis because they were taught that they prolong the carrier state.  This is true, but Bactrim (Septra DS) or other sulfonamides do help eradicate the infection, and do not prolong the carrier state.   Salmonella infected body fluids have a distinctive odor, detected probably most often by nurses, which smells like a cross between chicken and detergent.  Although many foods may be contaminated with salmonella, because chickens and a number of other fowl have salmonella organisms as normal flora in their digestive systems, chicken and similar foods can readily become contaminated.  Since a lot of people, especially as they age, forget from time to time, the importance of keeping chicken, particularly uncooked, away from other foods, especially mayonnaise, a great bacterial breeding medium, potato salads, chicken salads, eggs,  and a lot of picnic foods can easily become contaminated.  Sometimes, we can notice that a food has turned bad, but often we cannot.  If your recovery from salmonella is longer than you believe is normal, you should see a physician.  It does not happen often, but salmonella infection in the colon, can seed to other areas of the body, and has triggered ulcerative colitis, an autoimmune reaction in the colon.  I have also had a couple of ICU patients who had a sub-hepatic abscess, from yes, salmonella.
                A lot of food poisoning is salmonella, but a number of organisms can cause it also.  Shigella, campylobacter species, norovirus, E-Coli, listeria, staphlococcus aureus, bacillus cereus,  and toxoplasmosis can also cause food poisoning.  There are many other organisms and causations also, which are beyond the scope of a single blog post.  Most people become ill 1-16 hours following ingestion of the offending agent.   Viruses tend to have a more rapid incubation period, and bacteria may have a longer one.  Sometimes we never can ascertain what the offending food really was.  Because we use antibiotics in animal foods routinely in many places in the world, the virulence of these organisms is increasing worldwide.
                About a week ago, my daughter had a quite large and excellent spinach salad for lunch while working.  Within about six hours, she had a fever and chills, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.  Since she is a Type I diabetic, insulin pump dependent since a viral infection at age nine, this was a serious issue.  Almost a week later, she is recovering, realizing how fortunate she is to have dodged a hospitalization.

intravenous fluid (photo:

Please see my prior post on Dehydration and Rehydration:

Many of us are working hard to stay healthy and trim, and this leads us to eating many more foods raw than perhaps we once did. However, in this small way, we are at more risk for food borne illness.  Keep in mind that spinach particularly, is grown outdoors, must be handpicked, and is exposed to animal and possibly human excreta.  Sometimes washing in water may not be enough.   Some of the commercially prepared mild detergents for lettuce washing might decrease bacterial counts, but many people, like myself, are sensitive to them.  Wendy's Restaurants for example, routinely uses a lettuce wash product.   

               Most of us have heard about botulism.    When clostridium botulinum contaminates food, which is often canned improperly, the results can be fatal.    People who have eaten food with botulism contamination are exposed to toxins manufactured by the organism, and as a result, endure a progressive flaccid paralysis.  They must receive medical care immediately.

                For this reason, I wanted to set out when you can follow the directions I provided in the link above on Dehydration and Rehydration and when you simply need to seek medical care.  You can try to continue to rehydrate, and try to slow vomiting or diarrhea with Over-the-Counter remedies UNLESS:

    1. You appear to have food poisoning in a child under six, then speak to or see their pediatrician.
    2. Temperature in excess of 102 F with food poisoning symptoms---See MD.
    3. A person with food poisoning with known other chronic illness needs to speak with or see their physician. (This would also include an elderly person with a chronic illness, and especially with dementia.)
    4.  Any patient with an altered level of awareness must see a physician immediately.
    5. Anyone with a heart/pulse rate in excess of 120 beats per minute,  anyone whose pulse jumps twenty beats per minute between lying down and standing up.  Anyone whose heart rate has become irregular when pulse is taken.  Learn to take a radial pulse (at the wrist) on each of your family members BEFORE they are ill.  This skill alone can be invaluable.  Anyone who meets any of the criteria in item 5 needs to be transported to their physician.
   6. Anyone who is pregnant or breast feeding must speak with their doctor if they develop food poisoning.
   7. Anyone with difficulty keeping their eyes open, difficulty speaking, or difficulty walking needs to have an ambulance called for transport to ER.
   8. Anyone who has not urinated within 6 hours, or has severe stomach cramping, has yellow skin or yellow sclerae (white portion of the eyes) or who vomits each time they ingest even clear fluids, or can't take prescribed medications or insulin, must be transported to a hospital at once.
   9. Anyone with blood in stool or vomitus must see their doctor.
  10. If you have had a recent trip to a foreign land, and you have gastrointestinal issues now, see a physician as soon as possible. They may need time to get labwork to ascertain the organism responsible.

     Use your judgement.  If you believe a physician is needed, then one probably is.

          Avoiding food poisoning may not be easy.   Of course keeping good hygiene in your home kitchen and your frij. is important, as is handwashing, and proper handling of food.   However, most of us eat in work, hospital, university cafeterias, church suppers, or in restaurants, on occasion.   As the economy has deteriorated, many restaurants are less likely to throw out food as it ages, than they once were. It is simply easier to get food poisoning than perhaps it once was.   Perhaps the answer is to eat out less often, and to handle what you have at home, from eggs from chickens at home, to sprouts from the kitchen window, very carefully.  Cook food as directed. Use a meat thermometer when necessary.   "When in doubt......throw it out". Use some sense about picnic gatherings at schools and at churches. Sometimes, the hygiene or refrigeration is not what it could be.  Sometimes, younger people who do not yet know as much about proper food handling make errors, and sometimes elderly people have taken on more than they can now do, in terms of safe food preparation. In addition, making enough chicken for a family of four, is a very different proposition from safely making a chicken dinner for a church of 100.  The hygiene techniques will need to be different, and if the adjustments are not made, the results could be disastrous.  Food from home is likely safer simply because fewer people are handling it, and are likely to be more careful.

(Photo:  blog of Dr. Stephen Wangen)

Friday, March 9, 2012

What Happened to Virginia's "Castle Law " ?

       As simply as I can put this, Virginia Common Law evolved a little differently than state law in some places. Remember that the Virginia Legislature is the oldest continuously and presently operating body of lawmakers in the US, and possibly beyond.     In Virginia Law, one is permitted to stand ones ground in a self defense situation, providing he did nothing to provoke such aggression. We are also expected to use only the amount of force which is reasonably required to repel such aggression. This applies generally to the protection of people, and not property.   When one is in one's home, and is threatened by an aggressor, then we may use reasonable force to repel and attack or prevent injury to family or in a sense, property as well.
              In the last few months, the Virginia legislature tried to pass a "Castle Law" which would in essence, lie over top of Virginia's pre-existing Common Law.   The House of Delegates, therefore passed this:

     General Assembly:

The Virginia House of Delegates has passed a bill which would enact a form of the Castle Doctrine over top of all this. It hasn't been considered by the Senate yet and who knows if it will pass and be signed into law and in what form it would finally appear. However, we do have the new statute as it would be if the bill was enacted in its current form:
§ 18.2-91.1. Use of physical force, including deadly force, against an intruder; justified self-defense.

Any person who lawfully occupies a dwelling is justified in using any degree of physical force, including deadly physical force, against another person when the other person has unlawfully entered the dwelling, having committed an overt act toward the occupant or another person in the dwelling, and the occupant reasonably believes he or another person in the dwelling is in imminent danger of bodily injury.

Any occupant of a dwelling using physical force, including deadly physical force, as provided in this section shall be immune from civil liability for injuries or death of the other person who has unlawfully entered the dwelling that results from the use of such force.


     The positives of such a law would be that no civil action or lawsuit could stick, should the family of your robber or attacker sue you later for killing their son, husband, or brother etc.

  Here are some of the criticisms as well elucidated by:

The writing within the two sets of undulating lines is solely the work product of Ken Lammers.

 Level of Force Allowed:

What this statute clearly does is remove any restrictions that a "reasonable force" requirement might place upon a defender, once the requisite level of threat is reached. However, I'm not sure if this really accomplishes as much as it seems to. Anyone carrying a weapon which could cause bodily wound or injury would generally be presumed to be offering deadly force and therefore could be opposed with the same amount of force. As discussed above, an unarmed intruder wouldn't generally fall under this statute, because of the presumption that he is offering "harm", not "wound or injury." A physical attack can cross the line, but in that case the defender can already defend himself with deadly force under current law.

What This Statute Won't Do:

This statute is limited to the defense of people. It does not allow the use of deadly force in protection of property.

Additions Needed:

1) The language needs to be changed to say "bodily wound or injury."

2) I would like to see language put into it setting up certain presumptions:

a) "The victim of a rape is presumed to have a reasonable belief of danger to
life, even if the assailant is unarmed."

b) "If an intruder breaks into a dwelling after dark, the resident is presumed
to have a reasonable belief of imminent bodily wound or injury and may act
upon this belief without acting to verify or dispel it."


  From my standpoint, the issue here is that under current Virginia law, depending upon how voracious the prosecutor in your jurisdiction might be, that if you justifiably shoot and kill and intruder in your home, that although you are unlikely to be convicted when it is demonstrated that you shot to stop an individual who represented a threat to your life in your home, that you still will be arrested, jailed, will sit before a Grand Jury, and will lose a fortune to a legal team before your acquittal.
      I don't want to see people shooting one another in their home without legal recourse, but I do want to see a measure of legal protection for those who shoot within their own homes in order to save their own lives or those of their children. Experts are not sure that present Common Law in Virginia coupled with the present verbage of the Virginia proposed "Castle Law" will do that.  As a result, early this month, the Castle Law in Virginia was voted down. It was felt that Virginia's Common Law is already strong on certain points and that this is therefore unnecessary as presently written.
        I don't know how I feel about this.   I want people prosecuted when they inappropriately use firearms, just as I do when they inappropriately use knives or baseball bats.  However, I want some measure of legal protection when I am forced to stop a burly intruder in my home who has braved the multiple acreage, the dogs,  the gates, the fencing, and the security system.  Chances are, he did not break in to have tea.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

We Odd Folk

This is a Land's End dress from the collection which is available today.  This classic styling was comfortable for me in my twenties and frankly, works just fine now.  I can wear such a dress accessorized for a wedding, or for someone's graduation. I am still not sure why I need more than a few pretty dresses.

      I think my mother used to wonder if I were just a little odd.   My mother liked nothing more than shopping for shoes for literally hours.   I remember going with her on a shopping trip to New York City in the late seventies, and absolutely feeling faint because we walked so much in the summer heat as she was seeking the absolutely perfect shoe for some occasion.  My mother also loved the perfect dress.  She was very tall, and nice clothing did look very good on her. She liked the finest shops with new clothes, but she also enjoyed the upscale consignment shops, and these also added to her really exceptional closet.  When my mother passed, she left a collection of shoes for which Imelda Marcos would have been envious.  I am still consigning her clothes, and hats, and handbags   I am simply not this way.  I have my share of pretty dresses and a couple of pairs of nice shoes, but unless there is a special occasion, a wedding or something, the occasions for which these may be worn, are fewer and fewer.   I like comfortable shoes, and the last time a man much younger than I am, made an unwanted advance,  I told him that  "I have sweaters older than you !"  That statement would be absolutely true.   I like the clothing from the LL Bean and Land's End catalog, and if I can get it at a consignment shop, then that's all the better.  Some of the LL Bean clothing I have, I have had for many years, and much of it looks new. I actually have a new looking coat I bought before I was pregnant with my now grown daughter.   I like comfortable, clean, and good quality clothing.   I don't like things that are poorly made, or are too gimmicky.   I am lucky that my favorite clothing fit well in the closet of a college instructor.

I love these shoes.  They are so comfortable, and they work well with any pair of slacks.

Ladies coats from the LL Bean catalog.  These coats if cared for even reasonably well, will last many years, and look very good doing so.
                  I must be odd folk because I don't understand the obsession with clothing or with fashion.   There is so much to learn about on Earth.   Photography is a worthy obsession, be it digital or film.  One can spend a lifetime composing and seeking the perfect shots, and perfecting the perfect exposures.  My mother was also an exceptional cook, and unless you want chili soup with homemade bread and Baked Alaska for dessert, then I am not.  Raising animals can be a joyous endeavor, as can restoring cars or tractors.  I simply don't understand the obsession with covering onesself with colorful cloth unless they are also very comfortable.  I think I will continue with my own interests,  leave the clothing to the fashionistas,  and dress like Martha Stewart.